Five Reasons You’re Not Enlightened (And Five Ways to See That You Always Already Are!)

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If nothing is separate from Spirit, if everything is one with God, then why is it so hard to see it? In this exclusive new teaching by Ken Wilber, we explore five simple shifts of perspective to help you recognize your own already-enlightened condition, right here and right now—five different interpretations of nondual consciousness at the heart of some of history’s greatest spiritual traditions.

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Now making its first public appearance in any form, “Five Reasons You’re Not Enlightened” is Ken Wilber’s latest Integral Spirituality teaching, and it has created quite a buzz among his closest students and colleagues. Like the rest of the Integral model, this teaching helps make sure one is “touching on all the bases” that reality has to offer in a particular area—in this case, waking up to Absolute Reality and your own True Self.

In this teaching, Ken reminds us that “the esoteric traditions uniformly maintain that there literally is nothing but Spirit.” These traditions maintain the existence of an ultimate reality—Spirit, by whatever name—which is timeless, infinite, empty, and unqualifiable, and that the entire manifest Kosmos is not two, not separate, or nondual with Spirit. The Buddhist Heart Sutra summarizes the nondual view quite simply: “Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form,” and this is meant in the most literal possible sense.

However, most people who encounter nondual teachings have a similar kind of response: “Well that sounds great, but I don’t really know what ‘infinite unqualifiable Emptiness’ means in my own experience, let alone its ‘divine union with Form.’” For this reason, each nondual tradition has had to come up with a theory of why, if Spirit is literally the only thing that exists, most people don’t know it. In other words, each tradition has had to come up with a theory of ignorance, illusion, delusion, and unenlightenment to explain how, if only Enlightened Mind exists, it’s possible to be unaware of it.

In every tradition, the reason you’re not Enlightened is because you are engaged in some activity that prevents the recognition of ever-present Spirit. Based on a lifetime of study, Ken has identified five of the most common activities that, according to the traditions themselves, are the root cause of suffering and ignorance of Reality. However, each tradition usually only emphasizes one major activity of unenlightenment, and may only tangentially reference one or two others. By using an Integral Approach, spiritual practitioners can now consciously be on the lookout for all five major activities of unenlightenment.

As Ken is careful to mention, there are dozens of other activities that also prevent awakening, but these are five of the most powerful and common, from five of the most influential nondual traditions (each of which has specialized in overcoming the particular dualistic activity mentioned below).

In summary, the activities and traditions are:

Conceptualization – Madhyamika Buddhism

Objectification – Yogacara Buddhism

Seeking – Dzogchen (e.g. as found within Tibetan Buddhism)

Differentiation – Vedanta Hinduism

Lovelessness – Esoteric Christianity

Happily, Ken goes on to suggest a specific practice for each activity that helps one cease that particular cause of samsaric experience.

You may find that one of these practices deeply speaks to you, and leads you the most clearly and potently to a recognition of nondual Spirit. As with any kind of integral endeavor, it’s entirely fine to have a favorite aspect of the model you like to work with, so long as you do in fact remember to check in with the other dimensions. Alternatively, you can engage all of these practices in an organized fashion, and this can be done in a variety of ways.

One recommendation is to turn each activity into a self-inquiry, and to stay with each for five minutes before moving on to the next. This means that you would inquire into your own awareness, gently but clearly, “Am I conceptualizing?” or simply “Conceptualizing?” Then, every five minutes, move onto another: “Objectifying?” “Seeking?” “Differentiating?” “Loveless?” If you discover that the answer to any of these is “yes,” then simply notice this activity within awareness without judgment or condemnation.

The important principle here is the basis of what Ken calls the “Perfect Practice”—that which is aware of these activities is free of all of them, because awareness and Spirit are not-two. Don’t try and change these activities, simply rest as that which notices them, is aware of them, for that which is aware is Divine.

We hope you enjoy this exciting and liberating addition to your Integral Life Practice toolkit, and stay tuned for future materials expanding on this brilliant new Integral Spirituality teaching….

Ken Wilber

About Ken Wilber

Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.